Investment trends, entrepreneurial maturity, and the lookout for the most anticipated industries across MENA and EVMs. A two-part series with MEVP Managing Partner Rabih Khoury
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As most recently recorded in our Startup Funding- Emerging Venture Markets 2022, VC ecosystems across Emerging Venture Markets have observed an exceptional kickback from the Pandemic, breaking funding records across geographies. In 2021, while every ecosystem took to its own strengths and possibilities, we observed keen funding interest in FinTech, Transport & Logistics (T&L), and E-commerce across all geographies. Amidst an influx of capital and a surge of later-stage deals, it is only in exploring the granular VC trends that can help us evaluate the past year for EVMs.
What’s exciting about MENA, aside from the influx of capital and surge of emerging ventures in the region, is the intricacy of every geography which hosts its own unique opportunities and set of challenges. To have one of the poorest countries per capita in the world, Egypt, and one of the richest countries per capita, Qatar, be disrupted by digital innovations to create a symbiotic VC ecosystem is a remarkable feat. Observing a slight 10% YoY increase of transactions closed in MENA drove more than 130% increase in capital investment, signaling inflated ticket sizes in 2021. As most recently recorded in our MENA 2022 Venture Investment Report, 2021 marked a 40% increase in investor participation with unprecedented international investor participation, the MENA VC ecosystem pulled of its weight in 2021. We continue with the second part of our MENA in Focus series with Managing Partner at MEVP Rabih Khoury with a special highlight per geography:
In the past, MENA Startups had been mostly offline to online plays, i.e. startups taking on large, fragmented markets. After 2019 we see additional sectors which weren’t active in 2019 but now are including EdTech, MedTech, B2B E-commerce, and more types of FinTech including InsurTech and Property Finance. Previously hot sectors continue to be hot the likes of E-Commerce, On-demand E-commerce, FinTech, Mobility, Logistics, and Food & Beverage. In 2021, the FinTech industry in MENA observed a 44%YoY increase in the number of transactions closed, to account for almost 20% of all capital raised across all geographies. This reflects healthy investor interest in industries of digitization especially with Transport & Logistics (T&L), F&B, and Enterprise Software sectors all observing increases in VC investment in 2021.
Verily, MENA startups are becoming more aggressive in their pursuit of new geographies with startups in Pakistan entering the GCC and vice versa, while startups from every geography look to expand across Emerging Venture Markets. Reflected by a 40% increase in investor participation, we’ve been observing more appetite in VC, drawn by more exits and realized gains. Investors better understand the need for the VC asset class and see the potential upside, as they look more and more into local success, not just companies based in the US, China, or other markets. Here are some geography-specific insights and trends we’re looking out for:
One of the most, if not the most, relatively mature markets in the region. More later-stage deals Series A – onwards, with more resources available for the companies; meaning that companies have a well-established investment environment, wide pool of investors, regulatory support, and access to financing mechanisms and robust infrastructure.
The ecosystem in Saudi has been rapidly evolving catching-up to UAE, driven by 1) the wide pool of funds being directed in the market, 2) the digitization and technology integration direction of the country especially with the 2030 government strategy to diversify their investments beyond the oil & gas sector 3) proactive regulatory frameworks that are powering growth for startups the likes of SAMA fintech sandbox 4) large corporates partnering up with startups for partnerships and or investments, which gives a wider market reach for the startup ecosystem. Saudi is also now becoming more competitive in terms of deals (faster fundraising rounds with larger amounts raised and at higher valuations) than a couple of years before.
KSA Anticipated sectors: Fintech, B2B e-commerce marketplaces, B2B and B2C Automotive marketplaces and enablers, grocery delivery, dark-stores, and fulfillment players across different industries.
Although the startup ecosystem started before the 2011 revolution, the ecosystem is further developing much faster in the past couple of years (with now approximately 600 active tech startups, according to the Egyptian startup ecosystem report 201 by ITIDA). Egypt has a relatively highly diversified range of startups, however, the majority of the companies are still at the seed to early Pre-Series A stages, which will develop to later stages over the next 2 years.
The average deal size in Egypt is relatively still behind both UAE and Saudi, however, the number of deals is growing fast. The Egyptian startup ecosystem is growing exponentially due to:
- Progressive regulatory authorities (especially in the fintech sector, with the Central Bank and Financial Regulatory Authority becoming more open to working hand in hand with both local and regional startups), drafting new laws and regulations that will enable more reach and growth for tech startups.
- Government’s direction towards increasing digitization, financial inclusion, connectivity, and extending overall support and funds for SMEs and startups as they are seen as an engine for growth and employment creation.Large generally underserved and underbanked population with high internet penetration and literacy rates with a large pool of tech talent
- More VC funding is flowing in the country
Anticipated sectors: Fintech, B2B and B2C e-commerce, SME enablers (ex: fulfillment players, e-commerce store builders, lending providers, etc.), Logistics, Healthtech, and Insurtech (although still, insurance penetration is low, it indicates huge potential for InsurTech startups that will reduce inefficiencies of existing insurance ecosystem), Edtech (EdTech startups in Egypt are still early stage with a large potential for disruption, but need to crack monetization).
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Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria:
Morocco and Tunisia are relatively the more advanced ecosystems when compared to Algeria. The VC ecosystem in the three countries, however, is still relatively early when compared to other countries, where the majority of the companies are in Pre-seed – Seed stages, but this will evolve in the next couple of years driven by:
- More VC capital flow
- The similarities between all three countries make it easier for startups to geographically expand across them.
- Mastering the French language gives the startups an edge when tapping into francophone Africa.
- High internet penetration and highly educated talent pool.
- Anticipated sectors: SaaS, application software, Mobility, AI and IoT, B2B e-commerce.
Our focus at MEVP going into 2022 will be to create an impact on communities through our investment in E-commerce and E-commerce enablement, B2B and B2C, SaaS, Fintech, Web 3.0 (Crypto, NFTs, Enablers of the Metaverse…), Foodtech, Logistics and Mobility, Edtech and Healthtech. While we look forward to the exciting times ahead and the many more success stories to come out of the region, we'd like to thank you all for a remarkable 2021!
Special thanks to Rabih Khoury and the MEVP team for this 2-part Series on the MENA VC and Entrepreneurial ecosystems. To learn more head to our State of Startup Funding- 2022 Emerging Venture Markets report or check out the first part of this Series MENA in Focus Part I.
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